Signs of HIV infection are like those of many other common illnesses, such as swollen glands, tiring easily, losing weight, fever, or diarrhea. Different people have different symptoms.
There is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection and no cure for AIDS. There are treatments that can keep infected people healthy longer and prevent diseases that people with AIDS often get. Research is ongoing.
HIV slowly makes an infected person sicker and sicker. Diseases and infections will cause serious illness, but people often get better -- until the next illness. Sometimes, HIV can damage the brain and cause changes in feelings and moods, even make it hard to think clearly. Someone with AIDS can feel fine in the morning and be very sick in the afternoon. It can seem like riding a roller coaster, slowly climbing up to feeling good, then plunging down into another illness.
How HIV is Spread
The most common ways HIV is spread are:
Health care workers, such as nurses, risk getting infected if they are stuck with a needle containing infected blood or splashed with infected blood in the eyes, nose, mouth, or on open cuts or sores. In a few cases, a person sharing a house with a person with HIV infection or taking care of a person with AIDS has become infected themselves. These infections may have been caused by sharing a razor, getting blood from the infected person into open cuts or sores, or some other way of having contact with blood from the infected person. If you are taking care of a person with HIV infection, carefully follow the steps on protecting yourself from infection discussed later.
How HIV is NOT Spread
You don't get HIV from the air, food, water, insects, animals, dishes, knives, forks, spoons, toilet seats, or anything else that doesn't involve blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk. You don't get HIV from feces, nasal fluid, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit, unless these have blood mixed in them. You can help people with HIV eat, dress, even bathe, without becoming infected yourself, as long as you follow the steps described later in the section on "Protecting Yourself" later in this brochure. You do get other germs from many of the things listed above, so do use common sense.